Having a mentor who can help overcome challenges is essential for any entrepreneur and especially for the ones who are just starting their entrepreneurial journey. If you don’t have a mentor just yet, we’ve got you covered with great advice from experienced entrepreneurs who have learnt a ton of lessons while building their companies. We asked ten founders to share the most important piece of advice they would give to a first-time or aspiring entrepreneur. And this is what they answered.
1. Don’t be afraid to change course
The most important piece of advice I’d give to an aspiring entrepreneur is not to be afraid to change course. It took me roughly three companies, a few stints at bigger companies and countless pivots to end up where I am today. Every single experience taught me something, refined my thinking and brought a new dot to connect. And like Steve Jobs said, we can only connect the dots looking backwards, never forwards.
2. Find the right co-founders and first employees
Building and selling my own startup and working with our portfolio companies I realised that one factor matters most: people. So my advice to founders is to select the very best co-founders and first employees and build a strong company culture that breathes excellence.
3. Get the best possible team
Never ever do compromises on hiring. It’s the most important and challenging job you have as a founder.
4. Do it for the purpose, not for the money
Do it for the purpose, not for the money. To be able to persistently keep the determination, as an entrepreneur you need to realise the reason why you are doing this. Only then, one is able to face the utmost difficulties and overcome them. Try. And try harder.
5. Start validating your assumptions as soon as possible
For those aspiring to be entrepreneurs or try it out, I would suggest making the first step as soon as possible. Entrepreneurship is, in my mind, not about trying to find what works, but by constantly finding things that don’t. Life is full of false assumptions and as soon as you start validating those assumptions as false — the better off you will be. This of course includes all the false assumptions you might have about entrepreneurship itself.
6. Follow your passion. And save up some money.
Follow your passion. Because it’s the passion and only the passion that will push you through and keep you working towards your dream. If you’re after the riches and success only, you should keep your job in someone else’s company. On the more realistic side, save up money to live off of for at least 6 months from the start, before you start your own business. It’s not a smart idea to start a business and work part time or full time at the same time. Your business needs all your time, energy and passion to go forward. Otherwise it’s called a hobby.
7. Find your why
Ask yourself: why do you want to do it? The reason has to be meaningful for you, otherwise you won’t survive the troubles and you will lose faith. Draw a circle with 4 layers inside of it. The most inner one is your core and it holds the most important thing: know yourself. The second layer contains the next most important thing: what do you want to do and why. The third: just do it. Action! And the outer one: enjoy. It is not going to work if you don’t have all of these components. Remember to reflect on each of the them and between them regularly.
8. Try and fail. Learn. Try again.
First thing that comes to my mind is sisu, a Finnish word that I translate as “perseverance”. As an entrepreneur you will for sure fail, but what makes you strong and (hopefully) successful is the learnings you get from each failure. Hence, my life motto is “Try and fail. Learn. Try again.” It’s only through failures that you learn to understand and enjoy success!
9. Prepare for the impact
Be mentally prepared for watching your bank account balance hit rock bottom. It’s really important that entrepreneurs know how much time and financial coverage they’ve got left so there are no bad surprises if everything goes sideways. The true entrepreneur will believe, without going mad or being irrational, that this economic situation will change in the (near) future. It’s also important that first time entrepreneurs realise that they’re probably going to fail hard… However, it’s okay because the market actually values entrepreneurs with failed ventures, as they’ve got so much accumulated knowledge and experience.
10. Remember to take care of yourself
Getting a startup up and running is always hard work. At the risk of stating the obvious, startups are a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how well it’s going, there’s always the next problem to solve. Make sure you take care of yourself and your team. Sleep enough, eat well and healthy, remember to exercise. Rest and life outside the startup are mandatory to recharge your batteries and keep up with the energy you need.